IRVINE — Thousands of young Orange County residents will volunteer long hours this week as they go "Scouting for Food" to feed the hungry and homeless.
Through Nov. 6, members of Orange County chapters of the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A will be dropping off informational "Scouting for Food" door hangers to homeowners and manning posts outside more than 40 Vons locations in an effort to collect enough food for 1 million meals.
Residents may have already begun to see door hangers at their homes — signs that the scouts have passed by and will be returning Saturday for what they hope will be a donation to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank.
In preparation of the weeklong drive, scout troops have been touring the food bank, at the former MASC El Toro base in Irvine, to learn first-hand how their efforts impact the community.
"It's important to connect a real life experience to what they're doing — not just asking them to do it," said Tawny Mayfield, a scout leader for Girl Scouts Troop 721 of Yorba Linda. "We want [the scouts] to understand how they're helping and learn respect for those people in the community who have lifestyles and hardships they didn't choose to have."
An estimated 615,000 people in Orange County go without food each month — that's one in five people each day, according to data from Second Harvest.
"Every community has pockets," General Manager Jerry Creekpaum said about the oft unrecognized population of those struggling with hunger. "And I think that the perception of those outside of Orange County is that it is much more affluent than it really is."
While Second Harvest operations are sustained largely by large corporate partners like Von's and by the efforts of volunteers such as the Boys Scouts and Girls Scouts, the number of people in need has increased by more than a third in the last two years, Creekpaum said.
Last year the scouts raised more than 130,000 pounds of food and have pledged to try to double that this year.
Beside collecting donations door-to-door, troops will also be stationed outside 42 Vons locations to accept food items. In the store, residents can also purchase $10 donation-ready food packages.
"This is their event, but we recognize that we are very fortunate that they've chosen us to be the recipient year after year," Creekpaum said.
Leading the Girl Scouts "Brownies" tour through the facility's refrigerated storage room and mammoth packing warehouse, volunteer Kristy Clark showed the girls how the donated food helped stock the thousands of care packages currently stacked in crates for distribution.
"This isn't even full," Clark said indicating the stacked crates of peanut butter, canned tuned and other nonperishable items. "This is a lot of food and we still need so much more."